Kosovo Remembers Village Massacres as PM Urges More War Crime Probes

Kurti and members of his cabinet joined hundreds of people who gathered at the war memorial in Qyshk/Cuska to commemorate 138 Albanian civilians killed in 1999by Serbian forces in the village and in three neighbouring settlements, Lubeniq/Ljubenic, Pavlan/Pavljan, Zahaq/Zahac.

Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti speaks at the commemoration of the 25th anniversary of the massacre in Qyshk/Cuska near Peja/Pec, May 14. Photo: Kosovo Government.

“Those of you who experienced the war here, you have fresh memories of the morning of May 14 [1999], when at around 7.30, Serbian armed forces entered the village. There were around 100 armed, masked and [camouflage] face-painted troops,” Kurti said.

Kurti criticised judicial institutions for not doing enough to investigate war crimes in Kosovo.

The commemoration in Qyshk/Cuska village, May 14. Photo: Kosovo Government.

“This massacre was committed on behalf of Serbia and Serbia should be held accountable for these crimes, for the deportation of Albanian civilians, the destruction of properties, killings and looting during violent displacement. But justice has done very little and [taken] slow steps,” Kurti said at the commemoration in Qyshk/Cuska.

“All war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide, along with their perpetrators and those who ordered them, should face justice. Kosovo cannot forgive and forget crimes committed by the Serbian state during the war,” he added.

The commemoration in Qyshk/Cuska village, May 14. Photo: Kosovo Government.

On April 24 this year, Belgrade Higher Court found seven former members of the 177th Yugoslav Army Unit guilty of war crimes for their involvement in the deadly attacks on Lubeniq/Ljubenic, Qyshk/Cuska, Pavlan/Pavljan, Zahaq/Zahac. Two other defendants were acquitted.

The defendants were initially convicted in 2014 and sentenced to a total of 106 years in jail, but the appeal court reversed the verdict in 2015 and sent the case for retrial.

The commemoration in Qyshk/Cuska, May 14. Photo: Kosovo Government.

The retrial then lasted for almost nine years and was marred by delays and the repeated postponements of hearings. The April verdict can be appealed.

During wartime, the 177th Yugoslav Army Unit was under the command of the 125th Motorised Brigade of the Yugoslav Army. Its commander Dragan Zivanovic was investigated over the attacks on the four Kosovo villages but the investigation was dropped.